It is rather depressing, though perhaps unavoidable, that modern election campaigns spend almost all their money and energy trying to persuade that tiny group known as the ‘undecided voter’ in the so-called swing states.
Who are these people? Michelle Cottle writes:
[A]t this stage of the race, the vast majority of people still waffling aren’t so much “independent” or “thoughtful” or centrist so much as they are utterly clueless.
Ask the political scientists, pollsters, and other professional analyzers of the electorate who parse these sorts of things. They will tell you—as they have told me repeatedly over the years—that undecideds or swing voters or whatever you want to call them tend to be low-information folks who cast their ballots based on whichever candidate gives them the last-minute warm-and-fuzzies. (Did you see that guy’s smile in the last debate? Sign me up!) Way back during the 2000 Bush-Gore smackdown, I dug around in the data, interviewed undecideds, and called up a passel of experts. My findings were perhaps best (and certainly most entertainingly) summed up by Michael Haselswerdt, then the head of Canisius College’s political science department, who told me: “When it comes to politics, undecided voters don’t know anything. And they’re not going to pay attention long enough to learn anything.”
Another enduring and annoying characteristic of undecideds: many of them aren’t really undecided at all. (The Times put the number of self-styled independents who reliably vote for one party or the other at around half.) Why would people pretend to be something they’re not? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because political types blather on and on about how “thoughtful” it makes them.
Saturday Night Live interviewed some of these undecided voters to see what information they were still seeking.
Homer Simpson may be a perfect example of the undecided voter.